The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

February 8, 2013

ALCOA slams Uwharrie Yadkin study

By Brian Graves, Staff Writer
SNAP

Friday, February 8, 2013 — ALCOA’s Yadkin relicensing manager slammed a report funded by the Uwharrie Regional Resources Commission that seems to favor a recapturing of the Yadkin dams by the state and warned of a long legal fight if that action is attempted.

Commission Chairman Dr. Max Walser gave Ray Barham of ALCOA “three or four minutes in the interest of fairness” to respond to the report after the nearly hour-long presentation concluded.

“There’s not enough time to go into all the financial errors in these reports,” Barham said.

He said the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission had never recaptured a project.

“They have already stated publicly in an environmental impact statement that recapturing is not an option on the Yadkin River,” Barham said.

“That don’t see it as being necessary and we’re already past the time permitted in the law before the license is up to be notified about recapturing.

“To continue down that path is really misleading and foolish. The state really shouldn’t be trying to look at controlling private dams and private property. It’s not what this commission is about. It’s not how you do economic development.”

He asked what would be next if the state began taking over private businesses.

“Would it be farm land or oceanfront property the state wants to turn into a casino or a hotel?” he asked.

“That’s the dangers you’re talking about when you bring up this issue.”

Barham said the reports overlook hundreds of years of federal law, common law and those regarding ownership rights in North Carolina and the United States.

“I think the Supreme Court rulings would be very different than what you’re hearing tonight,” he said.

“If it continues down this path, it’s a long and expensive legal fight that the state of North Carolina does not have the money at this point to engage in.

“I would think the money fighting over this would be better put in doing something real instead of some pipe dream.”

Barham argued that ALCOA has invested in economic development in Badin.

“We’ve spent $10 million trying to create jobs,” he said.

“We’re actually the only ones that have created jobs in the last few years versus this committee.”

He said the company would welcome the state commerce department to work with them in creating jobs instead of “chasing the pipe dream of a few.”

Barham said this with new commission member Sharon Dreker, who is also the new North Carolina Secretary of Commerce, in attendance.

“I would remind the commission that as far as continuing economic development goes of the Uwharrie region, seizing ownership of the private dams owned by ALCOA is a waste of time and a waste of government dollars doing so,” Barham said.

“Real and sustained economic development is only going to be done through entrepreneurship and private enterprise. The commission needs to focus on doing things to support those things to bring jobs to the region and not trying to seize property and take the words of citizens who use double talk and misleading comments.”

The study which brought such a pointed response from ALCOA’s representative is a 49-page document entitled, “A River of Opportunity: How the Yadkin River Can Provide Wealth and Jobs for North Carolina.”

Walser said the study was paid for by a grant “to one of the environmental agencies” and the commission had voted to assist in the study with $20,000.

The acknowledgements preceding the written report say the study was prepared by Central Park NC with a grant from the Economic Development Administra-tion and the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The report was prepared and presented by Michael H. Schuman of Cutting Edge Capital, which is billed as “the leading expert in innovative financing tools and entity structuring that preserve mission and goals.”

Shuman is cited as “an economist, attorney, author and entrepreneur, and one of the world’s leading experts on community economics.”

His remarks were a well coordinated lecture which leaned heavily toward the “pros” on why a state recaturing of the dams would be a more positive option than relicensing.

He cited studies that show for every dollar locally spent, it has two to four times the economic impact.

Noting that ALCOA’s 2010 revenue was $31 million, he added that 58 percent of the company’s money leaves North Carolina and suggested under a state management scenario, all of the monies would remain within the state.

He said the cost to recapture the dams would increase the state debt by two to three percent.

Shuman’s analysis hit the hardest against the company when he suggested what ALCOA would do for business reasons.

“This is not a criticism,” Shuman said.

“ALCOA is shutting down smelters and facilities throughout the United States and producing aluminum outside the United States.

“We know ALCOA is trying to sell off some of these old facilities. We can look in Tennessee where after that plant received a lot of federal grant to make upgrades, ALCOA immdiately turned around and sold the plant for $600 million.

“I think it’s fair to ask why there is such a desire for ALCOA to get this thing relicensed, is it more about providing for the well-being of the people in North Carolina, or is it about flipping the property at a higher value?

“I really think there is a lot of evidence looking at what ALCOA is doing around the country that it is about fliping and raising the price tag.”